Last month a few of the co-founding members of Nursing Clio had a chance to get together at the AHA conference in New Orleans. As we sat around a table at the famous Carousel Bar, sipping on much-needed yummy cocktails, we reflected on our experiences blogging for Nursing Clio over the past ten months. Eventually the topic turned to how and why some people find our blog and the sometimes bizarre search engine results that lead readers to our site. We decided it might be fun and informative (our whole mission, right?) to allow an academic librarian to examine Nursing Clio’s stats and offer some analysis on his findings. The following is a collaborative blog post by husband-wife dynamic duo, Kevin and Ashley Baggett. Kevin Baggett is a Louisiana State University Law Librarian, and Ashley Baggett is a co-founder and regular contributor to Nursing Clio.
Old-timey porn, Downton Abbey, TED talks, body image, and cocaine benumbed vaginas are but a sampling of the interesting topics covered by Nursing Clio in its first ten months of existence. From this reader’s perspective, Nursing Clio is a blog that dishes out easy to digest academic articles that tie to present day social issues and delivers it all with wit and a wry smile. So when the co-founders asked that I conduct an analysis on the “how and why” the blog is discovered by its readers and write a guest post about it, how could I have resisted?
Website analytics is the measurement and analysis of a website to gain a better understanding of the site’s effectiveness and user traffic. Basically, it is the “what” portions of the site visitors are viewing; the “how” are they getting there; and the “why” or reason they are visiting.
While most for profit websites use website analytics to track market trends and find ways to increase profits, a sociopolitical blog logically has a different use for the measurement. Nursing Clio, according to its mission statement, seeks to engage the public in debate about gender and medicine. Its mission is to inform, not to sell ad space or goods. Using site traffic data, we can figure out the “what, how, and why” of the blog’s outreach.
Thankfully, Nursing Clio is a WordPress site and WordPress is a hosting platform that gives the site operator a wealth of measurements to monitor clicks, referrals, views, visits, keyword searches, and geographic distribution of hits. In fact, due to its ease of “back end” use and simple traffic tracking mechanisms, WordPress is quickly becoming the hosting choice of academic library website managers, like this author, who want more creative control over their online content. To write this, I was allowed to go under the hood of this blog and put on my social and information scientist hat to analyze the traffic data collected since the blog’s inception.
The “What”: Views
The most basic of website analytic data is views and visitors to the site. A view is typically tracked by every request for a file from a site, usually as simple of an event as a mouse click to or within the site. Views are helpful for understanding the overall volume or use of the site, but it does not give the site owner any reliable data about how many people are visiting. Visitors, on the other hand, are not exactly the number of humans that are visiting the site, but rather the number of uniquely identified clients that are accessing the site. A uniquely identified client can be any combination of a device (desktop, laptop, iPad, cell phone) and a browser (Firefox, IE, Safari, Chrome). This metric, which WordPress began tracking in December of 2012, is the closest a site manager can get to an accurate count of different visitors.
While the simple statistic of visitors and views will not tell us the purpose that is driving visitors to the site, a deeper look at the peak dates of views will tell us the content they are seeking out the most. According to the chart, August 2012 was the most popular month for the blog followed by September, October, and July.
The posts created during that time period are the most viewed of the entire run of the blog:
Are You Really Pro-Life? 9800 views
The Skinny Fat Girl 9000 views
Domestic Violence Sells? 8900 views
That is one post on the always hotly debated topic of abortion, one on female body image, and another on intimate partner violence. These high counts suggest that posts concerning female body issues are the most highly viewed and sought after by readers, or the “what” question to our three part analysis.
The “How”: Referrals
Overwhelmingly, the biggest referrals to the site are from Facebook (over 36,000) and the social bookmarking site Reddit (28,000), with search engines as a referrer at a distant third. This is not surprising as Facebook is the web’s top source of referral traffic and Reddit is no slouch in that category either.
The “Why”: Search Engine Terms
Reading the search terms viewers used to reach your site can be the most amusing part of website administration. Here is a sampling from the last seven days of search terms used to find Nursing Clio: “He-men no sexo,” “scary Oregon trail,” and “vajazzled penis.” You chuckled a little bit didn’t you? But search term frequency can perhaps be the most accurate measurement of what information viewers are looking for when they find your blog.
We took the top non-duplicate thirty search terms and charted them below.
Now, some of these most frequent terms could have been used to find non-informative news items or images that just happened to direct a viewer to the blog, but the overall pattern of these terms imply search engine searches are leading many to the blog who are actively seeking advice or commentary on gender issues.
Ashley Chimes In:
Most historians and other academics know you must have a good relationship with librarians. Their knowledge and assistance is invaluable when researching for an article, dissertation, or book, and we freely admit that and thank them in our acknowledgments. Marrying one has been such an asset…except in those rare moments when he is tired of dealing with research questions and turns to me saying, “Google it.”
Google is one of (if not THE) most well-known search engine available. It serves as an easy tool to find what you need on the internet. Academics turn to other means when researching, but still, we use Google (or something like it) for our everyday needs. Analyzing terms used in search engines offers quite a bit of insight to Nursing Clio’s reach.
A few of the co-founders and contributors check the site stats regularly. We have a running joke about what was the most appalling search term of the day. (And, trust me, there have been some doozies.) Sometimes, antifeminists find the site with their terms “I’m not a feminist,” but maybe when they hit on Nursing Clio and read some of the posts, they rethink their stance. After all, isn’t that what feminists do? Work to convert others as we try to take over the world?!? One can always hope and plot…. Sarcasm aside, the search terms used to find Nursing Clio seem overall to be people genuinely seeking answers to issues.
Trending news or popular culture (such as medical issues in Downton Abbey) peaks people’s interest, and they quickly turn to the internet. People may be hesitant to ask certain questions out loud, but the web offers a quick and relatively private way to find answers. Many searches tend to be personal as people struggle to understand or deal with an issue. Some have asked and found Nursing Clio through phrases such as “Can you get pregnant from being raped?” “What BMI is truly overweight?” and “it’s her fault?” These viewers seek to understand victim blaming, to come to terms with their body image, or to know the physical consequences of sexual assault. If any search term pulled at my heart strings, it was when I saw “words of encouragement for domestic violence victims.” As someone whose activist work and dissertation centers on gender-based violence, I hope those readers found exactly what they were seeking: answers and encouragement. Part of Nursing Clio’s mission is to provide information for important social issues on gender and medicine, and from the looks of it, we are fulfilling that goal.
Surely, we are well on our way to nursing the masses.